Judges 21 Commentary
The Book of Judges winds down with chapter 21, and with the statement that has been used repeatedly in the closing chapters of the Book of Judges: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. The presence of a king means people would live by rules. But for Israel, it is the absence of the King and His rules, (represented by the Ten Commandments), that is most worrying.
In the immediate context, a good king would probably ensure a system exists to avoid events of chapter 19. Man has always looked to the man leader amongst men. The problem however is not a lack of credible leaders for humanity but a lack of the King and His rules. Unlike those days, Israel now has a King, the man Jesus Christ.
Chapter 21 opens with an assembly at Bethel. Israel is mourning the loss of one tribe: Benjamin. Why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel? The LORD remains quiet; probably because we all know why. The Book of Judges runs us through an unending cycle of idolatry and unfaithfulness. We should know why the LORD is quiet.
The foolishly taken oath has its own message. Benjamin is representing Israel. He is not good enough to be trusted with a decent man’s daughter. Benjamin becomes like the Canaanite who Israel shouldn’t intermarry with.
Israel builds an altar and presents burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. The LORD is still quiet. Then Israel proceeds with man-made solutions to restore the ‘lost tribe. Again, the LORD is quiet.
With hindsight, we appreciate the silence. The LORD had spoken volumes and volumes concerning Israel’s way of life as one distinct from the deposed Canaanite peoples. From the Book, we cannot tell them apart.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1 verse 8. What else do they expect the LORD to say? This chapter may remind us of the need to reflect on our own lives before we engage the LORD. Have we been careful to do everything written in the Book of the Law? Will burnt offerings and fellowship offerings help us when we have forgotten the rules of the Kingdom?
It is not strange at all that even in the very last chapter we can see bloody violence against Jabesh Gilead. Man’s solutions are messy, raw, and altogether sinful. We can check it for ourselves. There is no law obliging Israel to clear out Jabesh Gilead. But what else do we expect from Israel? They no longer know the law of the LORD.
But is the LORD really quiet? No. Somewhere around these times, the LORD is nurturing the seed of the woman, as promised in Genesis. The promise to bless humanity was repeated to Noah in Genesis chapter 9. In Genesis chapter 12, the LORD isolated Abraham from Babel for purposes of blessing mankind. The seed would run through Isaac and then Jacob. Judah’s blessing from his father Jacob was that the scepter would not depart from under his feet until it came to whom it belonged. Between Judah and the real owner of the scepter, the man Jesus Christ, are Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David, among others. In the next book, we shall read about Boaz.
What is abundantly clear is that the LORD’s promise to bless mankind is longsuffering. It survived the Book of Judges. The faithfulness of the LORD is such that no one is too dirty to receive forgiveness. Indeed it is the purpose of scripture that we see ourselves in these lines and seek the LORD in repentance and salvation. Then, unlike Israel, we can have a King to rule over our lives.
The Book of Judges ends here.
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